The Week That Was: December 26, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
THIS WEEK: By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
COP-21 – Smoke and Mirrors: The Conference of Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended with significant changes to the earlier, to be agreed upon, agreement with the changes in a few small words. As Paul Homewood recognized the word “shall” was changed to “should” in the paragraph “Developed country Parties
shall should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Homewood suspected that the US delegates (probably under instructions from the White House) demanded the change. The issue was making the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction of the document legally binding. Making emissions reductions legally binding on the US would require Senate approval while the term “should” is not legally binding. President Obama has not consulted with Congress on the “Nationally Determined Contributions.” Contrary to the name, these contributions were decided by the administration, not nationally, and making them legally binding would require approval of two-thirds of the Senate present. The Administration’s game-playing faced harsh reality.
According to an article by Nitin Sethi, of the Business Standard out of India, the US Administration did not shoulder the burden of the harsh reality, but placed the burden on delegates from the European Union. The article opens with:
“If there was one overarching imprint on the Paris climate change negotiations, it was of the diplomatic heft that the US enjoys. The last hours of the talks, when the US was faced with the challenge of removing a phrase it didn’t like in the final agreement, it was left to the European Union to walk across the aisle to convince everyone to not oppose the changes the US demanded. The European Union, once hailed as the climate change leader of the world, was canvassing the developing country bloc to accept an agreement that was discordantly against its own non-negotiable position wanting a strict legally-binding protocol and not a loosely-bound agreement that the Paris outcome eventually became.
“That is a mere cherry of an anecdote that the Malaysian negotiator and the chief spokesperson of the Like-Minded Developing Countries group, Gurdial Singh Nijar, revealed in a candid interview to the Third World Network, an observer group at the negotiations. The US imprint is more explicitly visible in the results that 196 countries approved eventually at Paris on December 12.
“Days after the agreement, several Indian commentators, including diplomats and environmentalists who have watched or participated in the climate negotiations for years, have almost universally recognized some consequences of the agreement. The fundamental nature of the balance of responsibilities between developed and developing world has changed under the new agreement. The scientific basis of using a country’s cumulative emissions and not just the current or future emissions to apportion responsibilities has been done away with in the Paris agreement. The agreement requires a bottoms-up voluntary effort and will live by trust between nations or die for the lack of it over the next decade.
“All these decisions went almost exactly as the US desired and were supported by the European Union. In the future, trust would be built in the new regime by developed countries continuing to do more than the rest of the world in the fight against climate change, though the agreement requires so of them in rather meek words. That’s a tough task considering countries have quite blatantly broken legally-binding climate obligations for a decade-and-a-half now and that the requirement now is to do much more than ever before to reach the goal set in the agreement – keeping the rise in temperature to below 2 degree Celsius, preferably below 1.5 degree Celsius, by the turn of the century.
“But, as in all legal documents, details matter. The agreement reads, ‘Each party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive Nationally Determined Contributions (climate actions) that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.’ As the Third World Network rightly catches the fine print it analyses, ‘This means that there is an obligation to take the measures necessary, with the aim of achieving the emissions reduction target, but not to achieve the target itself (emphasis added).’
“This is again the US imprint requiring that no targets of any nature in the agreement be binding on the countries and that they be only indicative, while the processes are legally-binding.”
If the report is accurate, then Congress and a future administration should feel no obligation to fulfill the Administration’s declarations as long as the empty, bureaucratic processes continue. The agreement is a triumph of bureaucracy over meaningful action. Smoke and mirrors! Future delegates from developing countries may approach promises by delegates from developed countries with a great deal of well-earned skepticism. See links under Analyzing Paris!
Dear Subscriber to The Week That Was,
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In collaboration with like-minded groups, we produced hard-hitting comments for the record and provided scientific testimony on proposed Federal climate and energy policy. We expect this material to surface in future litigation over excessive regulation. In 2016, we plan to be very active in upcoming litigation over Federal regulations that are not supported by empirical science.
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On a global level, we established NIPCC in 2007 (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change) to respond to the false claims of the UN-IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and its followers — that use of fossil fuels, and CO2 emissions, will lead to climate disasters.
All four of the voluminous NIPCC reports and their Summaries are available at www.NIPCCreport.org.
The newly released 2015 report “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming” directly addresses the sources of disagreement among climate scientists, and that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a political body that does not perform rigorous hypothesis testing needed to advance scientific knowledge.
In 2013, the Chinese Academy of Sciences translated and published a book based on two NIPCC reports and organized a Workshop in Beijing.
The Heartland Institute, our publisher, has organized ten well-attended ICCC events (International Conference on Climate Change), featuring many of the 50+ NIPCC authors.
A few weeks ago. Dr Fred Singer, our founder and president celebrated his 91st birthday. After 25 years at the helm, in January he retired as SEPP president, but continues as Chairman of the Board for as long as possible.
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Thank you — whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, or other holy days during this time, we wish you and your family happiness in this blessed season and a joyful new year.
Kenneth Haapala, President
Science and Environmental Policy Project
Quote of the Week: “The mountains have been in labour, and given birth to a little mouse.”
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65 BC to 8 BC [H/t Philip Lloyd]
Number of the Week: 50%
NOTE: Due to travel commitments, there will be no TWTW next week!
Magic 2º C Achieved. The UNFCCC has set an artificial, bureaucratic goal of keeping temperatures from warming more 2º C since the Industrial Revolution (about 1750), now revised down to 1.5º C. Since 1750, there have been massive increases in wealth, prosperity, life-spans, health, and numerous other improvements in the human condition, making such goals purely dogmatic.
On his web site, WUWT, Anthony Watts asserts that since December 1978, atmospheric temperature trends measured by satellites and calculated by the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, and independently supported by weather balloon data, show that under current warming trends, by 2100 temperatures will rise by less than 1. 5º C, well within the goal announced by the UNFCCC. Thus, the entire UN bureaucratic exercise of cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is without meaning. See link under Challenging the Orthodoxy
Limits of Knowledge: On a philosophical level (in the mid-1800s what is now called science was often called natural philosophy), and for a different purpose, writing in American Thinker, physicist Thomas Sheahen briefly reviews the great strides science made over the past century, including recognizing the limits to scientific knowledge. He writes:
“We have indeed come a long way over a century, and physicists, chemists and biologists know a lot more than in the past. But the most important thing a physicist learns is about the limits of our knowledge. There are things that scientists do not know and we can be sure that we are not going to know these things via science – human knowledge comes with limitations. One major advance of 20th century science was Quantum Mechanics, which includes the Uncertainty Principle, which sets a limit on how well you can possibly know extremely simple things, like where something is or how fast it’s moving.”
Perhaps it is the false assertions of certainty used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the entities that rely on it, such as the UNFCCC, that motivates many skeptics of the claims that human emissions of CO2 are causing unprecedented and dangerous global warming/climate change. Certainly, claims that CO2 is the control knob of the earth’s temperatures, as made by Gavin Schmidt and his colleagues at NASA-GISS, is without scientific justification to those who have studied the large variations of the earth’s temperatures, with past warming and cooling periods.
Sheahen mentions the important philosophical step, the abandonment of determinism, that followed the abandonment of 19th Newtonian mechanics in the early part of the 20th century. Some global warming skeptics may consider the use of long-term projections from un-validated global climate models to be little more than a return of 19th century determinism, using 21st century technology. As Sheahen writes:
“We gradually realized that our viewpoint is terribly limited – that we can only grasp a small fraction of reality. It was a big dose of humility for scientists, but it was necessary. We understand now that there is a big difference between the very little human mind and ‘the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.”
The limits to knowledge need to be more fully explored and understood. See link under Seeking a Common Ground.
Politicized Nature? Nature magazine removed little doubt that it is highly politicized. Listed number one among the 10 people the editors selected mattered the most in 2015 was Christiana Figueres, “Climate guardian,” who has been Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since July 2010.
Figueres was also remembered by Climate Change Predictions.org which quoted her for saying on February 11, 2015: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years–since the industrial revolution.”
Since the US has greatly prospered under the current market economy, as well as other parts of the world that have embraced the market economy, those who are asked to approve funding or regulations flowing from the UNFCCC would do well to recall this quote. How many members of the Senate would vote for the treaty creating the UNFCCC, if they knew it would be led by such thinking. See links under Lowering Standards and Below the Bottom Line.
Undue Influence: Last week’s TWTW discussed an editorial in the Wall Street Journal which brought up the once secret emails that are showing a close working relationship between senior members of the EPA and members of Big Green, such as Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club. These emails were revealed through the determined work of Chris Horner of the Energy & Environment Legal Institute. Thus far, none of the politicians who demanded investigation of undue influence on independent scientists by Big Oil have demanded investigation of undue influence on government employees, EPA regulators, by Big Green. Perhaps, it is because members of Congress are on holiday. Stay tuned.
Additions and Corrections: Many readers informed TWTW that a word was missing in a sentence discussing revelations by Anthony Watts that, after adjustments, official NOAA publications show a far greater warming rate than shown by 410 well-sited stations, requiring no adjustments. The missing word was ‘less’ and the correct sentence should have read: Well sited stations show significantly less warming. One must be careful with four letter words.
On several occasions TWTW has mentioned that no global climate model has been validated. Perhaps the assertion should be no global climate model used by the IPCC has been validated.
As always, TWTW greatly appreciates those readers who take the time to inform it of errors of omission or commission.
Number of the Week: 50%. Roy Spencer, who along with John Christy, pioneered satellite measurements of the earth’s temperatures, estimated that compared with the sites used by Anthony Watts, discussed in last week’s TWTW, NOAA has overestimated the warming of the U.S. by 50%. Spencer writes:
“I my opinion, most of the climate research that gets published has little impact on the global warming debate. The field has become so specialized that seldom is there a finding that changes our understanding.
“I think that the recent AGU poster by Anthony Watts et al. breaks this mold.
“Anthony has spent years shedding light on the very real problem the thermometer network has for monitoring of temperature for climate change…most notably, local changes around the thermometer site associated with economic growth lead to spurious warming.
“Watts et al. used only the best data….which I think is the best strategy. If one wants to use ALL of the thermometer data, then the bad data needs to be constrained so that it matches the good data.
“As far as I know, this is not done by NOAA. And it’s a travesty that it hasn’t.”
1. Brushing Back a Lawless EPA
Congress crimps its budget and forces two Obama vetoes.
Editorial, WSJ, Dec 22, 2015
SUMMARY: Following up on its editorial on EPA’s Secret Staff of members in senior EPA management who work closely with Big Green, this editorial discusses the Administration’s use of expanded, and questionable, executive powers. Two bills passed by Congress may reduce these expanded powers. The first would nullify EPA’s powers under Administration’s power plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power-plants; the second applied to new power plants. “Mr. Obama rejected both measures with rare pocket vetoes that let a President refuse to sign a bill when Congress is out of session, as it has been since Friday.”
“The bills were still useful in showing Mr. Obama’s hand to voters in energy states and showing the courts that the legislative branch rejects Mr. Obama’s regulatory interpretation of Congressional statutes. This could help in particular the 27-state legal challenge to the Clean Power Plan.
“The EPA received $8.1 billion or $451 million less than Mr. Obama had demanded, and no increase from the year before. Congress has cut the EPA’s allowance by $2.1 billion, or 21%, since fiscal 2010. This has forced the EPA to cut more than 2,000 full-time employees over the same period, and its manpower is now at the lowest level since 1989.
“It also denied the nearly $30 million extra that Mr. Obama wanted for the legal department that defends the agency in court. The President’s budget request complained that “over the last five years, the number of lawsuits EPA counseling attorneys have handled during a year has more than doubled, increasing from approximately 240 in 2009 to well over 500 in 2013.” Well, yes, that happens when you keep breaking the law. The GOP budget doesn’t provide EPA the funds to hire additional attorneys.
“The budget also zeroed out the nearly $44 million increase Mr. Obama sought for his “water quality protection” initiatives. At least some of that money would have gone to ramping up the EPA’s new Waters of the United States Rule that empowers the feds to regulate just about every creek and pond in the country.
“Republicans were able to insert a few modest policy riders in the budget. Congress barred the EPA from attempting to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, and it added a requirement that the Administration inform Congress how much it is spending on climate initiatives across the federal bureaucracy.
“More might have been possible if Democrats hadn’t blocked individual spending bills in the Senate to force a giant omnibus that gave Mr. Obama more leverage by threatening to shut down the government. But the budget pressure on the EPA and the use of the Congressional Review Act show that GOP control of Congress has made a difference.”
2. The Top Five Energy Posts from The Wall Street Journal’s Experts Blog in 2015
WSJ, Dec 23, 2015
SUMMARY: The article discusses energy issues, with major focus on oil prices. The five previous posts are:
· Why $30 a Barrel Oil Is Unlikely. Even though inventories are high, global consumption will continue to grow. Most of the new production is in shale, at an estimated breakeven of $50 per barrel. If prices fall too much, shale production will drop significantly. If consumption increases, pushing up price, shale production will respond.
· Four Reasons Low Oil Prices Actually Help U.S. Shale Producers: a) only high yield acreage will be used and low prices place a premium on efficiency of operation; b) the decline in drilling rig activity reduces costs; c) available, low costs debt is declining, forcing better decisions in production expansion; d) these combine to force producers to emphasize efficiency and lower costs.
· The Reactors That Will Revolutionize Nuclear Energy: Now in the testing phase, Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) will change the nuclear industry. SMRs produce up to 300 megawatts of electricity–enough to power 238,000 homes. “One of the biggest advantages of SMRs is the safety benefits. Because their energy production results from natural forces such as gravity, convection and conduction, human error is removed from the equation. Moreover, if natural disasters were to strike an SMR site, no operator action will be needed to shut down the reactor because neither outside electric nor external water supplies is needed for cooling. Even more importantly, SMRs remove all possibility of heat building up in the reactor, which can cause fuel damage, and ultimately, a meltdown.”
· How OPEC’s Strategy Is Backfiring: “Despite a 63% drop in rigs drilling for oil in the three key shale regions since last November, oil production in those regions has barely budged from peak levels in 2015.” There is enormous room for improvement in shale oil production. “So here is a prediction: the current price environment will force the U.S. shale oil industry to get its act together to focus on more purposeful—and longer lasting—innovation. As a result, U.S. oil production will be stronger for longer than most people expect, pushing the oil price recovery back by several years.”
· Don’t Get Used to Cheap Gas: The mid-east, particularly Saudi Arabia will no longer act as the swing producer with market disruptions and shale producers cannot act as quickly.
3. Obama Has Been More Friend Than Foe to Oil Industry
By Amy Harder, WSJ, Dec 23, 2015
SUMMARY: The author argues that President Obama is being criticized by Big Green because he signed the massive budget bill which allows US exports of oil for the first time in 40 years. Also, “Mr. Obama can’t take credit for the oil and natural-gas boom, but it has taken place on his watch. Since January 2009, when he took office, oil output in the U.S. has shot up more than 80% thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other drilling technologies. Natural-gas production has risen nearly 30%.”
[SEPP’s Posted Comment: How many wells using hydraulic fracturing are being drilled on lands and waters controlled by the federal government? Zero? A miniscule number? The Administration has actively tried to suppress the greatest breakthrough in the production of oil and natural gas in recent years. A breakthrough which resulted in the recent drop in prices for the benefit of consumers. Kenneth Haapala, President, SEPP]